Avoid These Four Amateur Mistakes When Traveling With Your Camera

People often think that I am a ‘travel photographer’. Well, I’m not. What I am is a photographer that travels. There’s a world of difference, but that’s another story. Because of this confusion, I get asked a lot of questions.

“How do I become a travel photographer?” is the first question. Running a close second is “How do I shoot on my travels?” I’ll try answering the second question.

Traveling to photograph can be loads of fun. But not just anyone can look through the viewfinder and make a photograph. Having a camera doesn’t make you a photographer anymore than handing me a paint brush makes me a painter.

So, just how can a person be a good travel photographer and stand out from the crowds of tourists?

You have to realize that travel photography is more than just looking through the lens and pressing the shutter button. Taking great photographs is even more detailed. The bedrock under any good travel photographer is a passion for the art. And this is something that you can only learn through practice – taking photographs until you’re tired of it and then taking some more.

The old joke is: “What do you a call a travel photographer without experience? An amateur.” One of four problems will arise for the amateur who travels and takes photographs. A. They will have a difficult time capturing pictures that are stunning. B. They will have a difficult time learning to deal with the local culture. C. They are challenged by the task of setting up their equipment for best results. D. All of the above.

Here are four amateurish mistakes to avoid so you can monetize your passion for photography.

Mistake #1. Not Bringing Along the Right Equipment
Remember to bring along the equipment appropriate to the shots you want to get. If you’re planning on shooting landscapes, then you can probably leave the flash at home, but make sure to bring a tripod. If street photography is your aim, then forget the tripod, leave the flash behind also and bring some fast glass. If you don’t know what “fast glass” is, that should be a clue that you’re not ready to travel as a photographer. And I’m not going to give you a hint. Be resourceful and look it up. Regardless of the motivation behind your photography on the trip, make sure NOT to bring more equipment than you need. Too much equipment will mean too much weight to carry around and you’ll just get tired and frustrated.

Mistake #2. Not Using A Camera’s Automatic Settings
Many of the best shots in photography are literally “here-one-second-gone-the-next”. Unless you’re well versed in the settings on your camera, the best thing to do is just leave it on the Automatic setting. That way when the image of a life time happens in front of you, you don’t have to waste time fumbling with the shutter speed, aperture setting or some other knob on your camera. Getting good photographs about the locale requires a sense of readiness along with a photojournalist’s instinct. Be ready to point and shoot whenever an opportunity presents itself

Mistake #3. Not Being Polite Or Respectful To Local Customs
Getting candid shots of people out of doors in strange towns – or even your own home town – is called street photography. When you take photographs in a foreign place, you need to be aware of the culture and customs there. Here in the U.S. everyone that is in public is fair game for a photographer. The Constitution gives that to us. It’s not like that in other countries though. I was doing a shoot one time at the Pyramids and a friend that was along pointed her camera at a Muslim woman that was passing by. Take a photograph of a woman in certain Middle Eastern countries could land you in jail. Make sure you know the local laws and customs about photographing people. It could save you time and aggravation in the long run.

One good idea – if you can do it without looking suspicious is to use a long zoom. That way you can get your shots without causing any discomfort to the locals.

Mistake #4. Not Scheduling the Photographs
Yes, I know its vacation and you don’t want to think about schedules. But you do need to think about what is the best time of day to get that photograph. Some shots just look better at dawn while others look better in the early morning or early evening hours.

Landscape photographers find that photographs look best when captured during the “golden hour” – that hour just after sunrise and before sunset. Street photographers know that late morning and early afternoon are the best times to get a bright light with lots of contrast. So know what you’re going to shoot and then schedule your shots around that.

These are just a very few of the mistakes that most amateurs make. If you avoid them, then you will get the most out of your travel photography.